Last weekend we began a series of readings from the parables in the Gospel of Matthew. Today, and next weekend, we will continue to hear the parables of Jesus. These parables are amazing, multilayered teachings from Jesus. Our job is to listen carefully, pondering the layers of meaning. When we give time to prayer, study and meditation on the scriptures, then God is faithful to give us power for conversion.
In order to hear scripture fruitfully I want to teach a little prayer. It is simple and you don’t need the exact words, just the idea of it. Something like this:
Lord, open my ears to hear your Word. Lord, open my mind to understand your Word.
Lord, open my heart to believe your Word. Lord, open my life to live out your Word.
Let’s do a quick review of last week’s parable - the sower and the seed. Jesus taught his listeners three basic problems people have that prevents true conversion.
Problem #1. Spiritual ignorance - symbolized by the seek falling on the hard path. These people hear the word of God without understanding it. How many people have lost their faith through spiritual ignorance?
Problem #2. Spiritual Shallowness - symbolized by the seed falling among the rocks. These people hear the word of God but have no real relationship with Jesus and his Church. How many people have lost their faith through spiritual shallowness?
Problem #3. Spiritual Distractions - symbolized by the seed falling among thorns. These people can’t even hear the word of God because they are so distracted. How many people have lost their faith because of frivolous distractions?
The solutions are obvious. Jesus calls us to:
1. Spiritual Knowledge. Cultivate our souls through study of sacred scripture, sacred tradition, and church teaching
2. Spiritual Depth. Cultivate our souls through regular prayer and worship.
3. Spiritual Focus. Cultivate our souls by making Jesus our highest priority.
With this foundation in mind, Jesus gives us three more parables today - the wheat and the weeds, the mustard seed, and the yeast in the dough. Each parable expands on the idea of the seed, the Word of God, sown by the sower, Jesus. Each has a common idea - the seed that is sown. Each has a common thread – describing how the kingdom of God emerges in the world and in our lives. Let’s take a closer look to see what Jesus wants to show us in these parables.
1st Parable: The good seed and the weeds. This parable describes God’s mercy and justice. The good crop and the weeds grow side by side. But God waits until the end before sorting it all out. This is true for the world. God is infinitely patient, and desires the conversion of all. This is true for each of us too, because each of us stands between sin and sanctity. In mercy God waits for our conversion. And in justice, God will in the end separate the wheat from the weeds, the good from the evil.
We all have to ask ourselves an important question. What am I cultivating in my life? A good spiritual harvest? Or am I too much in the field of the evil one among the weeds of life? Remember, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
This is the kingdom of God working in us. It is like a field where seeds are sown.
2nd Parable: The mustard seed. This parable describes the power of the gospel to take root and grow. The mustard seed is very tiny, but grows into a huge shrub. In Palestine these shrubs are everywhere. The Kingdom of God is like that. Sometimes the smallest word of the gospel has the lasting impact on a person’s life. St. Theresa of the Little Flower of Jesus based her own conversion on doing small things with great love. Think of what this means! When we ask the Holy Spirit to guide our words and actions, then -
- how we share encouraging words of faith with others;
- how we do works of loving service as evidence of faith ;
is like the tiny seed that can become something amazing.
This is the kingdom of God working through us - like a mustard seed that grows into a large shrub.
3rd Parable: The yeast in the dough. This parable describes the power of the gospel to effect change. If you have ever baked bread, then you know that it only takes a tablespoon of yeast for about 4 cups of flour. The first part is the hard part - kneading. It’s the work of mixing, rolling, and twisting of the dough to get the consistency just right. Life can be like that. But if that is all there is then nothing special happens.
The amazing part comes when the dough is put aside for a while to rise quietly. In the spiritual life, this is the essential time given to quiet prayer, study, and contemplation. This is like the yeast in the dough. Only in the quiet of prayer, study, and contemplation do we find the real power for personal transformation. When we give time for this to happen, then the change that comes with our conversion is magnificent. This is the kingdom of God working in our hearts. It is like yeast in the dough.
God is announcing to us the secrets of the kingdom – calling us to righteousness so that we might shine like the sun in the heavenly kingdom.
Those who have ears, let them hear!